August 2010

Samuel C. Bauer, Attorney At Law (Bauer & Metro)

Author: Frank Dunne, Jr. | Photographer: Photography by Anne

“Hopefully, you’ll never have to hire me,” said attorney Samuel C. Bauer of the Bauer & Metro law firm. It’s probably not the most effective sales pitch you will ever hear, but attorney is one of those professionals of which we vigorously avoid becoming customers. Hiring a lawyer often means that something has gone terribly wrong.

Sam Bauer specializes in criminal defense, family law, and personal injury. When something falling within these practice areas happens in your life, it’s no time to fool around. You need a lawyer, and the right one can be your best friend. The wrong one…let’s not even think about it. Experience is important, and with over 500 jury trials to his credit in local, state, and federal courts both here in Beaufort County and in Alabama, Bauer certainly brings experience to the table.

There are a lot of good, smart lawyers out there. However, unless you have a lawyer in the family or a trusted referral, how do you know if the lawyer you choose is going to fight like your case is the only one on his desk? You need to look beyond the résumé and find out what really makes the guy tick. You want somebody who is going to fight for your interests because it is in his blood to do so.

Upon receiving his law degree from the University of Alabama, Bauer had accepted a United Nations appointment as Administrative Land Judge for Trinidad & Tobago. “While I was waiting in Mobile, Alabama for the ship to sail, a judge asked me to try a pro-bono burglary case,” said Bauer. “Standing in front of a jury for the first time was all it took. I knew that this was what I wanted to do.” It is in his blood, and that’s a good thing to know if you are charged with a crime. That and the knowledge that your defense attorney is the kind of guy who’ll leave no stone unturned in his quest for the truth.

“I was appointed to defend an older gentleman charged with murder,” said Bauer, recounting another criminal case. The defendant claimed that he had acted in self-defense and Bauer believed him, but that would have been impossible to prove given only the sheriff’s department’s facts of the case.

“All they had was that the alleged victim (who was significantly younger than and outweighed the defendant by about 30 pounds) was killed in my client’s driveway, and that he was my client’s wife’s paramour,” said Bauer. It was therefore assumed that Bauer’s client had committed a revenge killing, and the police had turned up no witnesses to say otherwise.

The client insisted that there were witnesses, but the incident occurred in a neighborhood not known for cooperating with police. Bauer found those witnesses and convinced them to testify. “The evidence we found was so overwhelming that the case was dismissed,” said Bauer.

That case exemplifies good old fashioned gumshoe work…pushing hard, asking questions and applying the power of persuasion. There are other cases, though, that require a different sort of due diligence. Where verdicts rely upon forensic evidence, the courtroom testimony will likely tread on ground unfamiliar to the typical jury of your peers. “The fact is, most people’s courtroom experience is limited to traffic court and what they see on television,” Bauer said. “They don’t know what really happens, and there is a phenomenon known as the ‘CSI Effect.’”

The CSI Effect refers to the influence that television programs such as the CSI trilogy, Bones and NCIS have over people’s perception of what happens in criminal investigations and trials. Jurors want to see vivid images, whiz-bang technology and a silver bullet clue. There might be drama in the courtroom, but it’s not typically as glamorous or theatric as Horatio Caine and his signature sunglasses.

Realistically, the cases come down to expert witness testimony. Whichever side does the best job of explaining to the jury what the forensic evidence from the medical examiner means will have the advantage. This is where law practice transcends the study of case law precedents and courtroom presence. The best criminal attorneys are the ones who have, over time, acquired the knowledge and cultivated the relationships with experts to interpret evidence for a jury.

“People want to hear from experts, and I have so many relationships because of the time I’ve spent here. We’re in a very unique position to bring experts to bear on any given case,” said Bauer, who has consulted with the late Dr. Michael Debakey, world-renowned pioneer in the development of the artificial heart.

Bauer is also Beaufort County’s only member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. “This gives us the scientific background to better explain forensic evidence to juries,” he said. “We know when the expert witness is going beyond the mainstream and onto his own little island.”

Bauer brings the same passion and diligence to practicing personal injury law, an area where he believes too many clients do not receive the appropriate level of attention and care from their attorneys. In fact, much of Bauer’s personal injury work comes from people whose attorney’s were not being the friend that their clients’ needed.

“There are too many personal injury lawyers who are competent, but lazy. They don’t invest the time in a case until the statute of limitations is about to go into effect,” said Bauer. “That’s how I got started in personal injury. So many clients were bringing me their case files because their attorneys were not giving them the attention.

“Personal injury cases are easy to do badly,” he continued. “You can work just hard enough to get something for your client, but you won’t get everything that you should.” And Bauer takes issue with that approach. “These people need your help now. They want to get on with their lives. We find doctors to treat them. We compel insurance companies to pay or go to trial.”

Bauer believes that the biggest reason that some attorneys fall short of the mark in personal injury cases has nothing to do with dedication, ability, education or anything like that. Rather, he thinks it’s a discomfort with actually trying cases in court. It’s not such a surprise, really. Among you and your friends, how many of you would say that public speaking is one of your favorite things? For most of us, that’s okay. But when so much is on the line and your attorney goes into the trenches on your behalf, don’t you want somebody who can’t wait to get there?

“Some lawyers are afraid of the courtroom,” said Bauer. “I live there.”

Bauer & Metro: 38-A New Orleans Road, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928; (843) 842-5297.

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